SAG, Film Dept. ink first deal

April 18, 2008 | Law Abiding Citizen News

If there is an actors strike, at least one indie film company won’t be affected.

The Film Department said Wednesday that it has inked completion agreements with SAG for nine pictures that are gearing up for production in the spring and summer.

The announcement comes as the actors union entered its second day of formal talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers on its film and primetime TV contract, which expires June 30.

The agreements allow Film Department to continue production on its projects in the event that talks break down and an actors strike is called.

Among the projects in the deal is the Catherine Zeta-Jones romantic comedy “The Rebound,” which starts filming April 21 in New York, [b]and the thriller “Law-abiding Citizen,” starring Gerard Butler, which starts producing Aug. 11.[/b]

“We’re thrilled to have reached these agreements with the Screen Actors Guild, with every indication of significant benefit for their members and for our filmmakers who have worked so hard to get their movies ready for production,” Film Department CEO Mark Gill said. “Effectively, this allows our films to proceed into preproduction in April, May, and June against production starts in July, August and September — a time during which production volume looks likely to be down by at least 50 films, as the studios are currently unable to proceed.”

Also included in the agreements are “Brothers in Arms,” directed by Marcel Langenegger and shooting in the late summer early fall; “The Other Side of Paradise,” about jazz icons Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald; and the romantic comedy “Earthbound,” penned by Gren Wells.

SAG said in early March that it would offer guaranteed-completion contracts to indie companies that have projects in production past the June 30 contract expiration date.

The agreements put to rest any threat of a stoppage. To qualify, the companies have to prove they did not have any financing or distribution deals with AMPTP-represented studios or companies.

The Film Department, for example, is a company with a $200 million capitalization that fully finances and produces six films per year budgeted at $15 million-$55 million. Gill founded the movie finance, production and international sales company in 2007 with Neil Sacker.

The need for such agreements is not yet known.

Although there is no press blackout, both sides remained reserved in commenting on the negotiations Wednesday, releasing only short statements reporting that they met for the day and will resume talks at 10 a.m. Thursday. It’s a sharp change from the previous talks producers had with the WGA, in which contentious negotiations led to the 100-day strike.

Sources say both sides have been collegial to each other, following opening statements in which SAG’s chief negotiator Doug Allen and president Alan Rosenberg presented their package of proposals to the AMPTP, led by Nick Counter, which includes an increase in DVD/home video and residuals for new media.

In the meantime, AFTRA, which voted to not join SAG at the bargaining table to negotiate the primetime TV contract, announced voting results for the rerun of its 2007 election of nine actors to the Los Angeles board of directors, and 13 reps for the union’s national board of directors. A total of 3,011 members took part in the vote, which was supervised by the U.S. Department of Labor after a challenge to the original election in May 2007.

Re-elected to the Los Angeles board were Lori Alan, Audrey Baranishyn, Milo Edwards, Morgan Fairchild, Matthew Kimbrough, Robert Pine and Bill Ratner. Elected to the board were Steven Barr and Carole Elliott.

National board members re-elected include actors Bonnie Bartlett, Patrika Darbo, Frances Fisher, Jason George, Sumi Haru and Ratner; dancer Sharon Ferguson; and singers Linda Harmon, Jon Joyce and Dan Navarro. Joining the national board are actors Jeff Austi and Paul Napier and stuntwoman Jane Austin.

The L.A. board terms begin May 30 and run through June 30, 2010. The national board terms begins May 30 and conclude at AFTRA’s 2011 convention.

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